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  • Jason Andersen

Can I fix it? etc.

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Revelation 5:5

The foundational conviction of the book is that things are not as they seem. Or more exactly, things are not only as they seem.

Discipleship on the Edge, An Expository Journey through the Book of Revelation, Darrell Johnson

As Americans (and perhaps humans) we naturally look for simple and comfortable solutions to things. As a people, we’re uncomfortable not being able to fix it. So we try to fix crises of various sorts like ‘the education gap’ or ‘the war on drugs’ or ‘the war on terror;’ we see possibilities or problems engineering wise and we fix it, so we’ve gotten a man on the moon, and we’ve invented and improved many technologies. Elon Musk is the paragon of this fix-it attitude (he sleeps on factory floors supposedly until it works), and I think even in human interactions, we are drawn to ‘fixing it.’ This is in part what the DSM, ‘the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,’ is all about isn’t it? If there’s a psychological disorder listed, then psychologists work to fix it perhaps with medicine and perhaps with therapy. When ‘disorders’ have been removed from the manual, it is a big thing since it has normalized what was once fixable.

If we were to reflect on all our fixes, we’d come to realize that we’re actually only half good at it (in other words, we’re half bad at it). We fail. The war on drugs had major unintended consequences, the jury is out on the war on terror but it also seems to have been an instrumental beginning to a terrible civil war, and we have yet to fix our public education system after at least a half-century of trying something new every few years. So maybe we’re actually pretty bad at fixing things, but somehow we have this optimism that says we should try to fix things again.

I think you get the picture. You could pick your own things we’ve tried to fix as a society, but the point is: there are problems in this world, and we Americans like to think we can come up with a solution to those problems. Unfortunately, with every solution, we’ve often created more problems. Ultimately, this displays our broken world, and it is a reminder that our quick, comfortable answers are not able to address the problems. And I think the instinct to fix things is deeply woven into our church culture. Over the past 100 years or more, American Christianity’s weakness might be described as relying too much on our ability to fix things. Famously in the 1800’s Finney relied on extraordinary measures to get people ‘converted’ when in fact it often was manipulation without Spiritual power. We have seen churches come and go that have thrived on ‘what works.’ I hope it’s a dying genre, but there is a whole genre of pastoral leadership books where a successful pastor tells his story about how he got to be successful. They often start with the caveat, ‘It was God who did this miracle,’ but the remaining 200 pages proceed to tell you how you can do it too. Another word for this is pragmatism. We do what works, and we look for solutions that work.

Now we’re beginning this book of Revelation, and there are things that are harmful to churches: deeply embedded sin, spiritual work without a spiritual heart, and so much more. There are strong warnings for these things: it you don’t repent, God will take away your lampstand. But our work of repentance is not where we rest our hope. Instead, Revelation begins with this awesome picture of Jesus Christ who walks among the churches and holds the stars which are his angels for the churches. It is an image that says ‘I’ve got this.’ Not only that, but what is so striking about the images of Christ in the book is that we are forever reminded, ‘he has conquered.’ And because he has conquered, we should endure, we should be faithful witnesses, we should remain steadfast.

You see when we see all the problems in the world, our first response must be to remember: ‘things are not as they seem, or more exactly, things are not only as they seem.’ The Lion of Judah, the Root of David has conquered. We must live in relationship to Christ’s conquering in a similar way to our being justified. We have been declared justified, but we’re still a mess. God’s declared us right, and this justification begins to work itself out as we grow into maturity and are sanctified. We work out our salvation as a fruit of this justification. In a similar way, we attack the problems in the world knowing that Christ has already conquered and he’s going bring this conquering rule to completion in his own way and time.

And this I think is where we can grow impatient. America no longer favors Christianity as a faith. But should our aim be to reclaim some sort of recognition, that America ought to favor Christianity? I’m pretty sure this talk is ludicrous, but somehow this is a lot of how Christians talk now a days. Unfortunately, the fruit of much of the discourse on fixing America (Christianly) ends up making the Christian church the third wheel, and I think the fruit of fighting to save the soul of America will be to neglect the weightier matters. When we were in Thailand we heard the story of a Thai man pastoring a Thai church (I hear it’s a rare thing). However, he neglected the field he was put in and spent time in the north and visiting America. By the time he finished his ministry, the church he was responsible for was not in a good place. When he should have fulfilled his responsibility of being a pastor to the people God entrusted to him, he neglected that weighty responsibility. That is sad. Too many of us have our eye fixed on the wrong thing to fix. Although it may be sad for Christianity to be not the cultural norm, that’s not in our calling to reclaim. Honestly speaking, I’m not sad for the passing of cultural Christianity. We know so many people who grew up in the 50’s in a church and knew nothing of Christ until an evangelist came and confronted them with Christ. If the church is failing at its most basic job of evangelizing itself, I’m not sure it’s a thing to be mourned. When we enter into our eternal rest, I think we will be surprised at how spiritually rich a forgotten culture was and how spiritually stagnant another was. Christ knows, and it was evident even to the apostle John, who said, ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.’ Perhaps this is the American church or perhaps not. Our calling? Repent and trust in the conquering Christ, and we will be clothed in white garments and never be blotted out of the book of life.

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